Interim Indian Union Budget 2009-2010
(16th February 2009)
Full Budget Speech of
Minister of Finance
23. Let me now briefly review the progress in some important areas.
Initiatives and Achievements
24. UPA Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi had said “To be equitable, economic growth has to be sustainable. To be sustainable, economic growth has in turn to be all inclusive. All inclusive is no longer the greatest good of the greatest number. It is actually Sarvoday or the rise of all”. In pursuance of that vision, the UPA Government in the National Common Minimum Programme had declared its intention to make growth more inclusive. The Eleventh Five Year Plan provides a comprehensive framework and strategy for making growth both faster and more inclusive. Impressive growth rates and buoyant revenues gave us the head room to fund ambitious programmes to achieve these objectives.
25. Never losing sight of our commitment to the welfare of Aam Aadmi and recognizing that 60 per cent of our population lives in villages, focused attention has been given by our Government to the agriculture sector:
(i) In the period between 2003-04 and 2008-09, our Government increased the plan allocation for agriculture by 300 per cent.
(ii) The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana was launched in 2007-08 with an outlay of Rs.25 thousand crore, to increase growth rate of agriculture and allied sector to four per cent per annum during the Eleventh Plan period. The scheme has encouraged State Governments to take initiatives to develop the agricultural sector.
(iii) On June 18, 2004 our Government had announced a package for doubling the flow of credit to agriculture. The credit disbursements have already gone up from Rs.87 thousand crore in 2003-04 to about Rs.2.5 lakh crore in 2007-08 marking a three fold increase. To strengthen the short-term co-operative credit structure, the Government is implementing a revival package in 25 States involving a financial assistance of around Rs.13 thousand five hundred crore. Government will continue to provide interest subvention in 2009-10 to ensure that farmers get short term crop loans upto Rs.3 lakhs at 7 per cent per annum.
(iv) The Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme for farmers, announced in the last budget speech, was implemented by June 30, 2008 as scheduled. The Scheme has been able to restore institutional credit to indebted farmers. As per early reports, the total debt waiver and debt relief so far, amounts to Rs.65 thousand three hundred crore covering 3.6 crore farmers.
(v) Our Government is committed to ensuring “food security” in the country and meeting the food requirement of the poor under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). In spite of higher procurement costs and higher international prices during the last five years, the central issue prices under the TPDS have been maintained at the level of July 2000 in case of Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) categories and at July 2002 levels for Above Poverty Line (APL) category.
(vi) Our Government has ensured remunerative prices for the farmers for their crops. Since 2003-04, Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the common variety of paddy was increased from Rs.550 to Rs.900 per quintal for the crop year 2008-09. In case of wheat the increase was from Rs.630 in 2003-04 to Rs.1,080 per quintal for the year 2009.
26. Our Government has accorded highest priority to rural development. A number of programmes have been designed to help improve the living conditions of rural population.
(i) The Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) is the main instrument to channelize bank funds for financing rural infrastructure. It is popular among State Governments. The corpus of RIDF was increased from Rs.5,500 crore in 2003-04 to Rs.14 thousand crore for the year 2008-09 ensuring greater availability of funds for its activities. A separate window for rural roads was created under RIDF with a corpus of Rs.4 thousand crore for each of the last three years.
(ii) Given the importance accorded to housing for the weaker sections in rural areas, 60 lakh houses were to be constructed under the Indira Awaas Yojana by 2008-09. In the period between 2005-06 and December 2008, 60.12 lakh houses have already been constructed.
(iii) Panchayat Empowerment and Accountability Scheme (PEAIS) is an existing scheme under the central sector plan which has been recognized as a powerful instrument to incentivise States to empower the Panchayats and put in place accountability systems to make their functioning transparent and efficient. Acknowledging the need to build in incentives for encouraging States to devolve funds, functions and functionaries and set up an institutional framework for such devolution, the Government proposes to substantially expand the scheme by making suitable allocations.
(iv) The Department of Posts has launched “Project Arrow” to revitalize its core operations and to provide new technology enabled service to the common man. So far this has been successfully implemented in 500 post offices in the country. This Project will receive full government support as it will enhance the services offered to masses and would also lay the foundation for a vibrant delivery mechanism for many social sector schemes such as pension and National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
27. It has been said that literacy levels are a measure of a nation’s degree of commitment to social justice. A literate environment is essential for ensuring universal elementary education, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, ensuring gender equality and acquiring essential livelihood skills:
(i) The year 2008-09 was a momentous year for secondary education when several major initiatives, including a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme to universalise education at secondary stage was launched.
(ii) Higher education is of vital importance for the country in consolidating its comparative advantage in skill and knowledge intensive services and in building a knowledge based society. Our Government has taken a decisive initiative in this direction. The outlay on Higher Education has been increased 900 per cent in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. An Ordinance has been promulgated for establishing 15 Central Universities. Six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) have started functioning in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat during 2008-09. Two more IITs in Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are expected to commence their academic sessions in 2009-10. With the commencement of academic sessions in the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) at Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram, all 5 IISERs announced earlier are now functional. Two new schools of Planning and Architecture at Vijayawada and Bhopal have already started functioning. Teaching is expected to commence in four of the six new Indian Institutes of Management, proposed for the Eleventh Plan period, from the academic year 2009-10. These are in Haryana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
(iii) The UPA Government has revised the Educational Loan Scheme, as a result of which the number of loan accounts has increased by more than four times during the period March 31, 2004 to September 30, 2008 from 3.19 lakhs to 14.09 lakhs. The loan outstanding during this period has increased from Rs.4 thousand five hundred crore as on March 31, 2004 to Rs.24 thousand two hundred and sixty crore as on September 30, 2008.
(iv) Following our announcement in 2004-05, nearly 500 ITIs have been upgraded into centres of excellence. As an integral part of the coordinated action plan for skill development, the Government created the National Skill Development Corporation in July 2008 with an initial corpus of Rs.1 thousand crore to stimulate and coordinate private sector participation in skill development.
28. I now turn to the social sector.
29. The UPA Government has launched many new schemes to provide steady monetary assistance to weak and downtrodden people of our society. Emphasis has also been given to the empowerment of women which has been an abiding objective of the UPA Government. I give some details of the important schemes:
(i) To further strengthen social and economic inclusion of minority communities, the new Ministry of Minority Affairs has been set up. Our Government has announced the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the welfare of the minorities. Adequate allocations are being made to support this initiative.
(ii) The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, which was notified for operation with effect from December 31, 2007, has been widely welcomed by Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who now have legal rights on forest land which they have been cultivating or using over generations for eking out their livelihood.
(iii) The National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) has been mandated to provide loans at concessional rates for economic development of persons engaged in unclean occupations. The authorized capital of this organization is being raised from Rs.200 crore to Rs.300 crore to enable it to effectively carry out its mandate. The scope of the pre-matric scholarship for children of those engaged in unclean occupations has been expanded and the rates of scholarships have been doubled in 2008-09. The annual ad hoc grant has also been substantially increased by almost 50 per cent as compared to the earlier rates.
(iv) Efforts of our Government and the financing institutions have led to a rapid growth of credit linked Women Self Help Groups which are now over 29 lakh in number. In this context, the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh will be strengthened by enhancing its authorized capital.
(v) In December 2008, ‘Priyadarshini Project’, which is a rural women’s empowerment and livelihood programme, was launched in U.P. with the assistance of IFAD. The project will be implemented as a pilot in the district of Madhubani and Sitamarhi in Bihar and Shravasti, Bahraich, Rai Bareli and Sultanpur in U.P.
(vi) A revised and modified scheme named ‘Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme’ was launched on November 19, 2007. This scheme covers all persons aged 65 years and above belonging to BPL households. So far 146 lakh persons have benefited from this scheme during the current financial year.
(vii) Two new schemes - Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme - are being launched in the current year. The Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme will provide pension of Rs.200 to widows between the age groups of 40-64 years. The Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme aims to provide pension to severely disabled persons.
(viii) In order to empower young widows in the age group 18-40 and equip them to stand on their own feet, I propose to give them priority in admissions to ITIs, Women ITIs and National/Regional ITIs for Women. Government will bear the cost of their training and provide stipend of Rs.500 per month.
(ix) The Government launched Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana for BPL families in the unorganized sector on October 1, 2007. Up to January 15, 2009, 22 States and Union Territories have initiated the process to implement the scheme. The Government of India also launched the Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY) on October 2, 2007. The AABY is a Scheme for death and disability cover of rural landless in the country in conjunction with the State Governments. Upto December 31, 2008, the Scheme has covered 60.32 lakh lives.
Public Sector Enterprises
30. We have created a strong public sector which has evolved in response to the nation’s needs and provided stability to our development efforts. When the UPA Government took charge, the turnover of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) in 2003-04 was Rs.5 lakh 87 thousand crore which has grown by 84 per cent to Rs.10 lakh 81 thousand crore in 2007-08. During the same period, profits of CPSEs have increased by 72 per cent from Rs.53 thousand crore to Rs.91 thousand crore and their contribution to the Central Exchequer by way of dividend, interest and taxes and duties has recorded an increase of 86 per cent. The number of loss making enterprises has come down from 73 in 2003-04 to 55 in 2007-08 and the number of profit making enterprises has gone up from 143 to 158 during the same period.
31. In order to maintain ethics and probity in the functioning of CPSEs, the Government approved the implementation of Guidelines on Corporate Governance in CPSEs in June, 2007.
32. In November 2007, Government constituted the National Investment Fund into which the proceeds from disinvestment of Government equity in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) are deposited. Three-quarters of annual income of the Fund will be used to finance select social sector schemes which promote education, health and employment. The residual 25 per cent annual income of the Fund will be used to meet the capital investment requirements of profitable and revivable CPSEs. As on December 31, 2008, the corpus of the Fund was about Rs.1815 crore.
Financial Sector Reforms
33. Over past years, technological, institutional and legal reforms in the financial sector have resulted in Public Sector Banks achieving significant improvement in their financial health. The asset quality has improved and NPAs have declined considerably from 7.8 per cent on March 31, 2004 to 2.3 per cent on March 31, 2008.
34. In the case of Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), a process of amalgamation and recapitalization of those with negative networth has been initiated. Over the last four years, 196 RRBs have been merged into 85 RRBs. The Central Government has contributed Rs.652 crore for the capitalization of RRBs upto December 31, 2008.
35. The UPA Government has undertaken a number of reforms in the last four years to deepen and widen the Securities markets and strengthen the regulatory mechanisms for these markets. The initiatives include reforms in the corporate bond market, participation of foreign institutional investors, foreign investment in stock exchanges, setting up of a dedicated training and research institute in the securities market, making PAN the sole identification number, streamlining the process and grading of initial public offering etc. Systems and practices have been put in place to promote a safe, transparent and efficient market and to protect market integrity.
36. The Government undertook a comprehensive revision of the Companies Act, 1956 to make it a compact law that, while responding to the changes in the business environment, would enable adoption of internationally accepted best practices. The Companies Bill, 2008 based on this exercise, has been introduced in Parliament.
37. In the days of financial stress, tax rates must fall and our ability to pay taxes must rise. Therefore, our Government undertook comprehensive reforms of the tax system, both the direct and the indirect tax system, with a view to improving its efficiency and equity. Distortions within the tax structure have been reduced by expanding the tax base and moderating the tax rates. The personal income-tax rates have been rationalized by increasing the threshold limit and adjusting the tax slabs to provide relief to taxpayers. Similarly, Customs Duty rates have been steadily reduced to eliminate the bias against the export sector and promote competition and efficiency in the manufacturing sector. The rates of Union Excise Duties and Service Tax have also been rationalized to enable eventual shift to the Goods and Services Tax on April 1, 2010. The Government also facilitated the introduction of the State level VAT in April 2005.
38. These structural changes were also supported by undertaking modernisation of the business processes of the tax administration through extensive use of information technology, viz., e-filing of returns, e-payment of taxes, issue of refunds through ECS and refund bankers, computer assisted selection of returns for scrutiny, establishing taxpayer information system and a computerised tax payment reporting system. These measures have enabled the tax administration to enhance its functional efficiency and provide better taxpayer service leading to increased compliance levels. To prevent movement of contraband goods across the country’s sea borders, the Government has sanctioned acquisition of 109 marine vessels for the Customs Department.
39. The Government set up the second Administrative Reforms Commission in August 2005 with a mandate to suggest measures to achieve a proactive, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient administration for the country at all levels of the government. The Commission has brought out number of reports with practical recommendations, providing a starting point for improving efficiency in the delivery of public services. The enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2005 at the Centre and in many States has bridged a critical gap in the public decision-making process, ushering in greater accountability of the public servants.
40. The Sixth Central Pay Commission submitted its recommendations in March, 2008. Government considered and improved upon the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission. This has benefited over 45 lakh Central Government employees including Defence Forces and Para Military forces and over 38 lakh pensioners. It is my hope that this will not only improve the quality of administration but will also help the economy by supporting demand.
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Further concessions in central excise & service tax announced: Customs duty exemption on naptha extended beyond this fiscal
Highlights of Interim Indian Union Budget 2009-2010